Coronavirus wastes posing threat of further contagion

Coronavirus wastes

Banani Mallick: Environment experts said the government should look to alternative ways like incineration while dealing with final disposal of Covid-19 wastes. They made this suggestion as used face masks, hand gloves and white gowns dumped here and there amid the pandemic of coronavirus are posing threat of further contagion.

They came up with the suggestion when the government was yet to ensure a safe management of the COVID-19 wastes in the country. They noted that the government should adopt a viable safe disposal method as early as possible as the coronavirus infection cases are increasing alarmingly with environment hazards in the highly-infected Dhaka and other cities and towns across the country. Md Sazzadul Haque, an environment thinker and academic researcher, said incineration of the COVID-19 related waste is the only way of dealing with this threat. “Being contagious in nature, the COVID-19 has the potential of further transmission through additional carrier and waste collectors and people living next to these open dumping zones,” he said.  Echoing Sazzadul Haque, many public health experts said the COVID-19 waste might be a source of coronavirus infection if they were not managed safely as the virus stays alive for several days on objects.

Referring to study findings of some provinces of China, he said, they use cement kilns and other industrial furnaces for burning hazardous waste. Bangladesh has also a number of cement industries. It can think of using controlled furnaces to burn the hazardous wastes.

In addition, he also suggested using the brick kilns located nearby Dhaka and other cities. Noted virologist and former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Nazrul Islam said all measures including quarantining, isolation and lockdowns to control the spread of the disease would go in vain if COVID-19 wastes were not managed safely. “COVID-19 waste is a confirmed source of the coronavirus infection and it can infect others at any stage,” he said. Dr Lenin Chowdhury, Joint General Secretary of Paribesh Banchao Andolan, said the virus Covid-19 can be back from the dumped wastes.

“The authorities concerned should look into some effective methods such as industrial furnaces and brick kilns. If they fail then COVID-19 hazardous waste will be a further threat to the community,” he said.

Talking to the Daily Observer Dhaka North City Corporation Chief Waste Management Officer Commodore M Saidur Rahman on Sunday said they were going to launch separate management of such wastes from Tuesday. “We have planned a massive public awareness campaign, training for our waste collectors and safe disposal of the wastes,” he said. He said the DNCC asked PRISM, a non-government organisation managing city medical wastes, to dispose of the medical waste generated at the community level.

Dhaka South City Corporation’s Additional Chief Waste Management Officer Mohamamd Mizanur Rahman admitted that the DSCC was yet to start separate COVID-19 waste management, saying that they would start one soon. He said they would start collecting the waste separately and dispose of them with other medical waste in cooperation with PRISM.

(The writer is a Senior Staff Correspondent of The Daily Observer and a participant of National Environmental Writing Contest 2020. She can be reached at [email protected])

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